Skip to main content

Full text of "PAM 20-236 Night Combat"

See other formats





JUNE 1953 


Department of the Army Pamphlets Published 

in the 



20-201 Military Improvisations during the Russian Campaign 

-Aug 51 

20-230 Russian Combat Methods in World War II 

_Nov 50 

20-231 Combat in Russian Forests and Swamps — 

Jul 51 

20-232 Airborne Operations: A German Appraisal 

-Oct 51 

20-233 German Defense Tactics against Russian Break-Throughs Oct 51 

20-234 Operations of Encircled Forces Jan 52 

20-240 Rear Area Security in Russia . Jul 51 

20-242 German Armored Traffic Control during the 

{ : Russian Campaign ^V : , ^- . ^ — Jun 52 

20-269 Small Unit Actions during the German Campaign in Russia — Jul 53 

20-290 Terrain Factors in the Russian Campaign Jul 61 

20-291 Effects of Climate on Combat in European Russia — Feb 52 

20-292 - Warfare in the Far Norths,; ; ffi'V ; \ v ■:: y ^i'V; -Oct 51 





This pamphlet supersedes MS # P-05ba and 6, "Night Combat" 
which were given a limited distribution by the Office of the Chief 
of Military History, Special Staff, U. S. Army. 






Washington 25, D. C, 11 June 1953 

Department of the Army Pamphlet 20-236 is published for 
the information and guidance of all concerned. 

[AG 385 (8 Apr 53)] 

By order of the Secretary of the Army: 

Major General, USA 
The Adjutant General 

Distribution : 

Active Army: 

GSUSA (5) ; SSUSA (5) ; Tech Svc (25) ; Admin & Tech 
Svc Bd (10) ; AFF (25) ; OS Maj Comd (50) ; A (15) ; 
CHQ (10) ; Div (8) ; Brig (3) ; Regt (3) ; Sch (25) ; 
PMS&T (1) ; T/O&E 30-500 and each team (1) ; 30-510 
(1) ; 30-520 (1) ; 30-600 and each team (1). 


Div (1) ; Brig (1) ; Regt (1). 
Army Reserve: 

Div (1); Brig (1); Regt (1). 
For explanation of distribution formula, see SR 310-90-1. 

Official : 



Chief of Staff, United States Army 


Digitized by 






The material for this pamphlet was prepared for the Historical 
Division, EUCOM, by a group of former German generals and 
general staff officers. The principal author, former Brig. Gen. 
Alfred Toppe, and most of his associates served for extended 
periods on the Russian Front during World War II. Moreover, 
most of them held assignments involving troop training. 

The reader is reminded that publications in the GERMAN 
REPORT SERIES were written by Germans from the German 
point of view, and that the procedures, tables of organization and 
equipment, combat doctrine, and staff methods of the German 
Army differed widely from those of the U.S. Army. It is inter- 
esting to note, however, that, in conformity with the German 
recommendations made in this pamphlet, our own programs are 
placing increasing emphasis on night combat training. 

Final editing of this pamphlet was done in the Foreign Studies 
Branch, Special Studies Division, Office of the Chief of Mili- 
tary History. The draft translation of the original German text 
was first revised and then reorganized in the interest of brevity, 
clarity, and pertinence. In this process every effort was made 
to retain the point of view, the expressions, and even the preju- 
dices of the authors. 


Major General, USA 
Chief, Military History 



Dig ill 



GoOQk Original from 







l- General - 4 

U. Physical and Psychological Factors— 4 

III* Exercise of Command 5 

IV. Orientation 6 

V. Reconnaissance .. 6 

VI. Security ..... 7 

Vll. Movements 7 

VIII. Assembly 8 

IX. Attack 9 

X. Pursuit 12 

XL Defense 13 

XH. Retrograde Movements . 15 

XIII. Position Warfare 16 


/. Characteristics and Training of the Russian Soldier 19 

//. Movements ... 20 

III. Reconnaissance 21 

TV. Infiltration _ 22 

V. Offensive Operations 27 

VI. Defensive Operations .... 29 

Vll. Retrograde Movements 30 

VHL Partisan Warfare 30 


/. Movements ..... 32 

//. Reconnaissance 33 

///. Offensive Operations 33 

IV. Defensive Operations. 37 

V. Retrograde Movements . . 38 


7. General .. 42 

11. Individual Training 43 

///. Weapons Training 44 

IV. Unit Training 44 

APPENDICES I— Vll. Training Schedules 46 

RESTRICTED Original from 



No. Page 

1. General Reference Map _ _ vi 

2. The Region around Shala ~. 23 

3. Russian Infiltration by Night (17-21 August 1943)-- 25 

4. German Preparations for a Night Attack (30 September- 

2 October 1941) 35 

5. German Surprise Attack by Night (21 January 1944) 36 
f». German Night Withdrawal (25-27 September 1943) 40 





Mop I 










GoOQk Original from 



This pamphlet supersedes MS # P-05£a and b, "Night Combat," which 
were given a limited distribution by the Office of the Chief of Military 
History, Special Staff, U.S. Army. 


The reader of the prewar German Army operations manual, 
upon reaching the chapter heading "Night Combat," found that 
the subject was covered very succinctly and somewhat super- 
ficially. The contents failed to reveal the tremendous importance 
that night combat and night movements were to assume in mod- 
ern warfare. 

During two world wars, night and other periods of poor visi- 
bility, such as fog and snowstorms or rainstorms, gradually came 
to be considered the ideal time for action. Interference from the 
air reduced fighting and paralyzed movements in daylight hours, 
with the result that the space between the front and the most 
remote corner of the rear areas was often empty and deserted. 
During the hours of darkness combat and movements resumed 
with new intensity. After a while the German soldier considered 
this mole-like existence as normal, but the conclusions that 
should have been drawn from these undeniable facts in setting 
up training schedules were completely inadequate. 

In Russia more and more actions occurred at night. Once this 
was widely recognized during the later years of the war, much 
of the individual and unit training took place during darkness 
and other periods of poor visibility. 

The farther the recruit is removed from nature, the more night 
training he must get. Once a soldier has learned how to move 
and fight at night, he will be all the more effective in daytime 
when good visibility facilitates his tasks. 

The purpose of movements in darkness or obscurity is to 
conceal preparations and thereby achieve maximum surprise and 
effect. Another important consideration is that night combat 
keeps the casualty rate at a minimum. Both elements apply to 
any operation from the time of assembly until its conclusion, 
whether it is a small unit action or a strategic envelopment. 

Movement and combat at night are inexpedient when a cer- 
tain minimum amount of orientation is impossible because terrain 
conditions and the enemy situation are too uncertain, or when the 
moon or enemy action create conditions resembling daylight. 

RESTRICTED Original from 



Bright nights make it easier to conduct night operations, but 
they give the enemy more opportunity to observe and interfere. 

To overcome these difficulties, units accustomed to night fight- 
ing learned to apply certain practical lessons. Night movement 
and night combat require the most exacting preparation by offi- 
cers and men, including detailed map and terrain study. Even 
for well-trained troops, poor visibility will cause delays that may 
result in a lowering of the over-all march performance or may 
involve loss of initiative and freedom of action. The larger the 
units, the greater the difficulties that will inevitably arise. 

Careless night movement along roads and on the battlefield 
enables the enemy to take effective countermeasures. Depend- 
ing on the enemy's potential and the ability of his leaders, the 
advantages friendly forces derive from operating in darkness 
may not only be cancelled out, the execution of the entire opera- 
tion plan may be jeopardized by a complete stoppage of every 
movement, by a disruption of the chain of command, and by panic. 

Before any night operation the responsible commanders must 
familiarize themselves with the theater of operations, become 
thoroughly acquainted with the enemy's materiel and his methods 
of employing them, and observe carefully his tactics in different 
situations. Possessing this knowledge, a field commander will be 
able to decide whether the principles of night combat should be 
applied rigidly or whether there may be some relaxation. 

Under conditions as they exist in central and eastern Europe, 
troops must be capable of carrying out night marches in such a 
manner that their performance will not be greatly affected by 
observation and interference from the air. Once under way, move- 
ments in the combat zone must be completed according to schedule, 
even in the face of surprise enemy action. This may be achieved 
by breaking down units into small components, by camouflaging 
them, and by applying other protective measures. 

The intended operations must achieve surprise, so that the 
enemy is not prepared for counteraction. However, it must be 
assumed that during large-scale operations only the preparations 
and the initial engagements will take place under cover of dark- 
ness. To bring the fighting to a successful conclusion will require 
efficient interunit communication, a clear view of the situation 
and the terrain, and the exercise of firm leadership — demands 
that can be met only in daylight. 

Night operations require the closest contact among ground 
units and among all components of services operating in a given 

Bombing and strafing missions against movements behind the 
enemy front may save lives and decide battles ; the same thing is 

Original from 




true of day and night attacks on enemy aircraft and airfields, 
which facilitate movements behind one's own front and, in some 
instances, constitute a prerequisite for the execution of such 
movements without severe casualties. 

Night marches and night combat make greater demands on 
the troops than similar daytime operations. The responsible com- 
manders must bear this in mind if reverses are to be avoided. 
Therefore, there must be some nights during which the troops 
may rest, because even relatively quiet sleep in daytime cannot 
replace rest at night. Through the use of excellent staff work 
and troop discipline the number of full night rests can be reduced 
to a minimum, but they cannot be eliminated entirely. 


Original from 




I. General 

Night operations call for disciplined, cool, self-reliant troops. 
The mental strain involved in night combat is severe; it is easier 
to endure in periods of activity than during long spells of in- 
activity. This is why at night — even more so than by day — he 
who takes the initiative has the advantage. However, since orienta- 
tion and co-ordination will become increasingly difficult, this 
initial advantage diminishes as the attack progresses. 

Darkness is helpful in achieving surprise, and the attacker will 
derive additional advantages from the defender's inability to 
aim his fire effectively. To maintain control and intraunit contact 
and communication is difficult during the hours of darkness, and 
unit commanders must therefore prepare every detail of the opera- 
tion plan with meticulous care. Any contingency, however far- 
fetched, must be taken into consideration. Success of a night 
attack also depends on the resourcefulness and initiative of 
subordinate leaders and their ability to make independent de- 
cisions in line with the over-all plan. Furthermore, since frequent 
and accurate reporting is of great importance, the existence of 
a smoothly operating communication system is essential. 

Every possible method of deception, camouflage, and conceal- 
ment must be employed in night operations. 

IL Physical and Psychological Factors 

The effect of events taking place at night increases or decreases 
in proportion to the degree of darkness. Operations taking place 
during moonlight and starlit nights, especially across snow-cov- 
ered terrain, may approximate daytime conditions. Very hazy, 
rainy, foggy, or overcast weather calls for reliance on the audi- 
tory rather than on the visual sense and makes increased demands 
upon physical stamina and mental balance. 

The reaction pattern to night operations is not uniform. In 
general, men originating from rural areas adjust quickly and 
easily, whereas former city dwellers take a long time and en- 
counter many difficulties in getting used to the pecularities of 
night conditions. Darkness acts as a strong stimulus to the 
imagination and thus burdens the nervous system; a feeling 
of insecurity, which might eventually lead to panic, may be the 


Original from 




outcome. The sensitivity of eyes and ears differs between night 
and day, with the result that in darkness objects seem bigger 
and distances greater. The ears exaggerate sounds that would 
hardly be perceptible during the day. 

Nights are normally used for resting, and for this reason 
fatigue and symptoms of exhaustion afflict those who have to 
stay awake. Unit commanders must bear in mind that uninter- 
rupted night duty is more strenuous than similar daytime activi- 
ties. Young men are not necessarily better equipped to overcome 
night fatigue than men belonging to older age groups. To a 
certain degree, however, everyone can readjust his senses and 
habits through continuous practice. 

III. Exercise of Command 

In a situation in which a daytime operation promises success, 
a resolute and bold commander will continue the action into the 
night. Determined pursuit of a weakened enemy may result in 
a major victory. Although mobile units are generally most suit- 
able for launching a pursuit, foot infantry may be employed to 
great advantage, especially when the terrain and weather con- 
ditions reduce the mobility of motorized forces. A well-planned 
airborne operation, either independent of or in conjunction with 
ground operations, may be particularly effective in such a sit- 

A commander whose air and armored power is manifestly 
inferior to the enemy's may score at night if his infantry is 
tough and has sufficient 6lan. In general, tactical movements in 
the proximity of enemy lines can be undertaken only under cover 
of darkness. In some instances it may be advisible to engage 
the enemy only at night, if daytime fighting would lead to heavy 

Success of night operations depends primarily on careful 
planning, detailed preparation, simplicity of the operation order 
and tactical procedure, achievement of surprise, and the leaders' 
calmness and circumspection. Every officer who is to partici- 
pate in a night operation must be initiated into the plan. The 
more thorough the daytime preparations, the more certain the 
success. Tactical maneuvers and the mechanical handling and 
servicing of weapons and equipment are slowed down and com- 
plicated by darkness. Proper condition and meticulous care of 
weapons and equipment are essential. 

At night the example of leaders exercises a strong influence 
on the troops. It is imperative that the leaders share danger 
with their men and inspire them by their own courage and 

RESTRICTED Original from 




determination. A reverse or defeat suffered at night has a more 
lasting effect on the troops' morale than one suffered during the 

IV. Orientation 

Night orientation is based on careful daytime reconnaissance, 
thorough study of maps — including captured ones — and the knowl- 
edge of prominent landmarks and celestial bodies. To facilitate 
orientation one may use the prismatic compass, radio beam ap- 
paratus, line-of-site fire by mortars, illumination of enemy ter- 
rain by artillery fire on inflammable targets, fires lighted behind 
one's own MLR, Very lights, parachute flares, searchlights, ma- 
chine gun tracer fire, mortar salvos at prearranged orienting 
points, and specific night fire orientation tables. 

V, Reconnaissance 

Reconnaissance must be an uninterrupted effort; frequently 
the most useful information is gathered through night recon- 
naissance. During the hours of darkness friendly patrols are able 
to penetrate deep into enemy territory to points from which they 
can observe enemy movements during daytime. 

In darkness reconnaissance patrols can usually determine only 
whether or not a specific area is occupied by the enemy. To gather 
more detailed information about the strength, composition, and 
weapons of the enemy forces, reconnaissance in force must be 
carried out by patrols that should return with prisoners of war. 

As in daytime, patrols advance by bounds. During very dark 
nights, when the enemy is within close proximity of the friendly 
lines, reconnaissance and security activities may coincide. 

Every effort should be made to carry out reconnaissance during 
daytime in order to obtain essential information for launching 
a night attack. The reconnaissance elements will then be able to 
guide the attack forces across the intermediate terrain at night. 

Motorized patrols are generally unsuitable for battlefield recon- 
naissance because of the noise they make. If, however, motorized 
elements must be employed, they should be sufficiently strong 
to be capable of fighting their way back to friendly lines. Engineer 
detachments should accompany them on such missions. 

Collecting information for use by the artillery at night is espe- 
cially important and is the responsibility of the observation bat- 
talion. Evaluation of the elements of information should be per- 
formed at an evaluation center located near the artillery com- 
mand post. When operations progress at a rapid pace, it will 

Digitized by GoO j 






rarely be possible to employ the entire observation battalion in 
properly surveyed positions. 

Short-range communication intelligence operations performed by 
radio intercept and direction finding teams may be effective, par- 
ticularly in a defensive situation or during a retrograde movement. 

The closer the co-operation between all ground and air recon- 
naissance elements, the more accurate will be the commanders' 
estimate of the enemy situation. 

VI. Security 

At night, when troops are at rest, in combat, or on the move, 
security is closely related to reconnaissance. Precautions must 
be taken against surprise ground and air attacks, and against 
observation by the enemy. All units, even those in rear areas, 
must be highly security conscious. 

A strong infantry point, marching 300 to 400 yards ahead 
of a reinforced combined arms battalion, will usually provide 
adequate security for a night movement. The distance between 
this advance guard and the main body depends primarily upon 
the degree of darkness and should in general not exceed 1,000 
yards. Flank security elements should remain close to the moving 
column; their strength depends on the nature of the terrain. 
Motorized units should be preceded by advance detachments or 
picked advance guard units to which engineers should always 
be attached. 

In a defensive situation the security elements should be as 
close to the enemy as possible so that approaching enemy forces 
can be detected at an early moment and appropriate measures 
to intercept them can be taken. The security detachments should 
be alert and observe the roads as well as the intermediate 
terrain. They must carry ample signal equipment. Patrols should 
be sent out to maintain contact between the security elements 
if the terrain is close and the enemy situation obscure. Securing 
communication centers and traffic arteries in rear areas is par- 
ticularly important if there is danger of infiltration by enemy 
ground forces, paratroops, or partisans. 

VII. Movements 

In darkness, movements can be far better concealed from 
enemy ground and air observation than in daylight. The smooth 
execution of a movement depends upon careful road reconnais- 
sance, easily identifiable road markings, efficient traffic regu- 
lation, and proper employment of engineer units. 






If a movement that should be concealed from the enemy 
cannot possibly be completed during the hours of darkness, the 
responsible commander must decide whether it should start before 
dark and end before daybreak or begin after dusk and terminate 
in daylight. The decision will depend primarily upon the over-all 

During the night the average unit can march one and a quarter 
to two and a half miles an hour. Under favorable conditions 
infantry forces can cover greater distances at night than during 
the day, but night marches and movements are more strenuous. 
Marches along a wide front with full utilization of the entire 
road net are often more advantageous than marches in great 
depth along only a few roads. The best results are obtained if 
march schedules are rigidly adhered to and phase lines reached 
at the designated time. Since night movements require par- 
ticularly careful supervision, light aircraft may be used for this 
purpose. Even in rear areas strict march discipline should be 
enforced. Headlights should either be removed or given a coating 
of blue paint. 

If the road net and time permit, night movements should be 
carried out in dispersed formation in depth so that only a few 
march elements can be discovered and identified if the terrain 
is illuminated by enemy night reconnaissance planes. 

During the approach to the enemy lines strict sound discipline 
must be observed. Phase lines must be designated for motorized 
vehicles, beyond which they are not allowed to proceed until 
ordered to do so. Harassing and interdictory fire from artillery, 
antiaircraft, and infantry weapons, as well as low-flying aircraft, 
can be employed to conceal the noise of motorized vehicles and 
thus deceive the enemy. 

In the immediate proximity of the enemy all movements will 
have to be carried out in complete silence. Orders must be trans- 
mitted in a whisper; no other talking should be permitted. 
Weapons and equipment must be carried in such a way that 
they do not clatter. Wherever necessary, manpower will replace 
motor traction. The striking of matches, smoking, or any other 
use of light must be avoided. If contact with the enemy is 
expected, exposed parts of the soldier's body should be blackened. 
During the winter a white outer garment should be worn over 
the uniform. 

VIII. Assembly 

Proper assembly preparations must be made before launching 
a night attack against well-established enemy positions. If a major 


Original from 




offensive operation is planned, several nights will generally be 
needed for the approach, assembly, and execution of the attack, 
especially during summer when nights are short. 

Assembly areas must be protected. If the attack is to be launched 
by fresh troops, units manning the MLR will be responsible for 
security during the assembly period. Tactical air support units, 
in particular fighter forces operating in conjunction with ground 
troops, will have to clear and secure the air over the approach 
routes and assembly areas. Antiaircraft defense must be organ- 
ized before the start of night movements and before the ground 
troops arrive in the assembly areas. 

In order not to reveal one's intentions prematurely, it is best 
to wait until the night immediately preceding the attack before 
moving the assault forces, the artillery, and the armored and 
motorized elements to their jump-off positions. Headquarters 
staffs, reconnaissance teams of the individual arms, and battery 
details should be moved up ahead of the main body of troops so 
that they can obtain in advance the data needed for the planning 
and execution of the attack. 

The movement of large numbers of troops into an assembly 
area during a single night requires meticulous timing and rigid 
traffic regulation. It is advisable to control these movements by 
a special staff having the authority to regulate the traffic and 
sufficient traffic control personnel at its disposal. 

A dense communications network, including fully operational 
control points, should be established along the approach routes 
to guarantee the smooth flow of movements. Approach routes 
should be marked with luminous signs. Delays caused by broken 
down vehicles will be avoided if POL dumps and recovery ele- 
ments are placed along the approach routes and if detour routes 
are designated in advance. Units that are not included in the 
first attack wave should be held in rear areas to prevent traffic 

Assembly at night is inherently difficult and is not worth 
undertaking unless every means of camouflage and deception is 
used to prevent detection by enemy reconnaissance. 

IX. Attack 

Attempts to exploit a daytime success often lead to con- 
tinuation of an attack at night. Surprise is especially effective 
in conducting limited-objective attacks in darkness. During a 
night attack the individual soldier's moral stamina is of particular 
importance. In many instances he will be engaged in hand-to-hand 






The success of a night operation will depend upon meticulous 
and detailed preparations, including proper evaluation of recon- 
naissance reports; study of maps, including captured ones; ter- 
rain reconnaissance; familiarizing all officers and the maximum 
number of NCO's with terrain features in daytime and during 
the night ; reconnoitering and marking roads ; carrying out road 
repairs and improvements with the assistance of engineer troops ; 
preparing a fire plan for all supporting weapons; preparing a 
plan of maneuver ; and establishing a communication network. 

Surprise can be achieved by unexpected intervention of friendly 
forces at a point where there has been no previous contact, or 
by a variation in the direction and timing of the night attack 
if contact with the enemy has previously been established. In an 
effort to produce surprise the enemy should be lulled into a false 
sense of security by staging concentrations, by conducting decep- 
tive movements behind the front accompanied by the noise of 
motor vehicles, etc. Other means of confusing the enemy before 
the start of an attack include unexpected variations in combat 
methods, deceptive and diversionary maneuvers, radio deception, 
and sudden concentrations fired by all weapons. 

The timing of an attack depends on the over-all plan, strength 
and disposition of the attack forces, delays that may be encoun- 
tered while assembling them and preparing all weapons for action, 
the strength of the enemy forces and their alertness, and, finally, 
visibility and weather conditions. 

If the intent is to break through a well-established defense 
system in order to gain freedom of action, the attack should be 
timed to start a few hours before dawn. Against a well-prepared 
enemy such an atack will have a chance of success only if a 
complete penetration is achieved before daybreak, so that it can 
be exploited during the early morning hours. On the other hand, 
since limited-objective attacks launched at night ought to be 
concluded by daybreak, it is best to start them during the early 
hours of the night. In general, night attacks directed against 
enemy flanks are particularly effective. 

The assault columns should be developed early in the attack, 
but deployed as late as possible. They should be echeloned in 
depth along a narrow zone of action. By keeping closed up, the 
columns will be able to maintain contact. Infantry heavy weapons 
should be placed in the eenter of the march columns until the 
battalions arrive at the jump-off positions. It may be advisable 
to assign a few guns to the lead battalions; artillery observers 
should always accompany the forward elements. Self-propelled 
guns, assault guns, and tanks are more mobile, but make more 
noise than horse-drawn guns. 


Original from 




Unit commanders should be well forward ; reserves and engineer 
elements ought to be within their reach. Radio silence should be 
imposed until the start of the attack; if this is not feasible, the 
assault forces, which must be amply provided with radio sets, 
must impose strict radio discipline. 

There will be no need for artillery preparation if it is expected 
that the night attack will achieve complete surprise and that 
the enemy forces will disintegrate after the initial assault. Every 
effort must be made to move the assault forces as close to the 
objective as possible without firing a shot, even though this may 
lead to premature detection of the plan by the enemy. Absolute 
silence must be maintained during the approach. The preparatory 
fire will commence upon request by telephone or radio. Light 
signals betray the presence of troops and may lead to confusion 
among the friendly forces. 

Protected by the preparatory fire, the assault forces will make 
their way to the jump-off positions. Then, while the artillery 
shifts to counterbattery fire or to adjacent enemy sectors, the 
assault forces will advance, supported by their own heavy weapons 
and guns firing from the line of departure. Forming small attack 
groups the assault forces will fight their way into the enemy 
lines, using bayonets and other close-combat weapons. The simul- 
taneous appearance of tanks and assault guns, as well as the use 
of flame throwers, may have a great psychological impact on 
the enemy. 

Depending on the situation and the scope of their mission, 
the assault forces must regroup for the continuation of the 
attack or prepare themselves for defense against counterthrusts 
immediately after reaching their designated objective. Uninter- 
rupted communication with the heavy weapons and artillery is 
essential. The direct-support guns attached to the assault forces 
should remain under the same jurisdiction until daybreak. 

The attack should be broken off without any hestitation if it 
bogs down within the enemy's defense system and if there is 
no prospect of concluding it successfully by additional fire support, 
a change in maneuvers, or other means. In that event it may be 
necessary to move the assault forces back to their jump-off posi- 
tions. If this should not be feasible, the attack forces will have 
to organize themselves for defense in the terrain they have 
seized. To repeat the attack during the same night at the same 
point is not advisable. 

In the event that the assault force is composed exclusively of 
armored units, then the tanks, armored engineers, and armored 
infantry must operate as a team and stay close together to lend 
mutual support. If the armored force is sufficiently strong, it is 

RESTRICTED Qriginalfrom 




advisable to divide it into two waves. The first one should consist 
of tanks to lead the attack in line formation, their hatches closed, 
their lights off, and their guns firing; the second should be com- 
posed of the main body of armored personnel carriers and anti- 
tank weapons, and should be echeloned in depth to facilitate the 
shifting of forces and the protection of the flanks. The armored 
engineers should stay close to the assault force commander so 
that they can remove mine fields and other obstacles in an emer- 
gency. By refueling at the last possible moment and assuring 
the replenishment of ammunition, the forces should be forti- 
fied against the moment of weakness that occurs immediately 
after the initial objective has been seized. 

As soon as the assault forces have penetrated the enemy's 
defense system, strong formations that possess maximum mobility 
and have been held in readiness in the rear area must advance 
through the gap without delay. A local penetration achieved at 
night may easily transform a static situation into a fluid one 
during which motorized formations can obtain freedom of maneu- 
ver. The annihilation of hostile elements capable of offering 
continued resistance must be left to the reserves backing up the 
initial assault wave. 

If visibility is good, tactical air formations can lend effective 
support to the ground forces by attacking hostile artillery posi- 
tions, units on the move, and troop concentrations in rear areas. 
Since detailed planning and close co-ordination with the ground 
forces are essential, air liaison detachments equipped with ade- 
quate means of communication should be made available for 
this purpose. 

The carefully planned commitment of parachute units in con- 
junction with ground operations may lead to decisive results by 
paralyzing the enemy's will to resist. To find suitable drop zones 
and establish intraunit contact after landing are the principal 
difficulties connected with the employment of airborne troops by 
night. On the other hand, darkness handicaps the defender in 
determining the scope of landings and in distinguishing between 
actual airdrops and deceptive measures, such as the dropping 
of dummies. 

X. Pursuit 

Night pursuit may lead to the complete rout of defeated enemy 
forces because the pursuing troops have a decisive psychological 
advantage over the badly shaken enemy. When pursuing defeated 
hostile forces at night, the attacker must not lose contact with 


Original from 




them or permit them to catch their breath. Silence is no longer 
of any importance. 

The pursuing elements may be composed of all arms. Armored 
units with self-propelled guns and mounted infantry, as well 
as foot troops with a few artillery batteries or pieces and antitank 
and assault guns, may be employed for this purpose. Engineers 
should always accompany the pursuit units to remove obstacles 
and clear mines without delay. 

Night pursuit through unfamiliar terrain will usually confine 
the attack forces to roads. The speediest and surest way to 
overcome strong enemy resistance is to turn off the road and 
envelop the hostile forces. Enveloping maneuvers should be at- 
tempted, but the pursuing forces must not be diverted from 
their far-reaching objective by their efforts to envelop or encircle 
the enemy elements they have overtaken. 

The air force can be of great assistance on the condition that 
close air-ground co-operation is maintained. Bold, continuous 
bombing and strafing attacks against retreating hostile forces 
have a decidedly demoralizing effect on the enemy command and 
troops. The conduct of night pursuit can be greatly facilitated 
by illuminating the enemy's route of withdrawal and by indicating 
by radio the position of the pursuing spearheads. 

XL Defense 

The strength of the defender's forces usually determines the 
defensive system he will adopt. Against an enemy who is capable 
of infiltrating the defender's MLR, a continuous front provides 
better protection than a system of strong points that save man- 
power but leave the security of the intermediate terrain to patrols. 

The main battle position should be fortified as far back as the 
division command posts. Headquarters and service troops should 
be integrated into the defensive system. 

The fire plan that governs the co-ordination of artillery with 
infantry heavy weapons and small arms must be established in 
conformance with existing fortifications. The plan for artillery 
fire by night will provide for interdiction fire, delivered automati- 
cally upon request of the outpost elements, on the strip of no man's 
land immediately in front of the forward trenches. The co-ordi- 
nates of certain areas within the main battle position must be 
determined in advance so that interdiction fire can be laid down 
immediately in the event that enemy forces succeed in penetrating 
the position. All weapons should deliver interdiction fire, and for 
this purpose the infantry heavy weapons must be integrated into 
the plan of artillery fire. 






The fire plan will also include concentrations that will be fired 
by several batteries on specific terrain features which the enemy 
will have to occupy on his approach to the friendly lines. More- 
over, the plan will provide for counterbattery fire based on air 
reconnaissance and ground observation, surprise fire pinpointed 
on command posts, approach routes, and localities in the rear 
areas, as well as harassing fire. 

At night, patrol activities must be increased and the troops at 
the outposts and in the MLR should be reinforced if sufficient 
manpower is available. The no man's land should be lit by flares 
and searchlights placed in flanking positions. The meaning of 
each type of light signal must be clearly established and explained 
to all concerned. 

In an attempt to prevent the enemy from making use of ground 
and air reconnaissance information obtained during the day, day- 
time troop dispositions should be changed after dusk. Such pre- 
ventive measures will also protect friendly forces against hostile 
artillery preparations preceding a night attack and will prevent 
the capture of the forward elements by enemy combat patrols and 
raids. At night a defensive position must present a completely 
different picture from that shown during daytime. The enemy 
forces attacking by night will thus be faced by an unexpected 

Whenever possible, counterthrusts against enemy penetrations 
should be carried out during the hours of darkness so that friendly 
forces can capitalize on familiarity with the positions they for- 
merly occupied. A counterthrust against the enemy's vulnerable 
flank is usually preferable to a frontal attack. 

In the event that local reserves are incapable of immediately 
restoring the situation by a counterthrust or if no forces are 
readily available for this purpose, it is preferable not to get too 
involved in fighting but rather to wait until the situation has been 
clarified and sizable reserves have been moved up. Then, after 
systematic preparation, the counterattack can be launched at 
dawn or even later. Too much haste may lead to failure. 

Close-combat antitank detachments, positioned at advantageous 
points, can often inflict severe losses on enemy tanks that have 
broken through the MLR. Assault guns and tanks, held in readi- 
ness by the defender, add impetus to a counterattack by giving 
mobile support to the foot soldiers. The destruction of enemy 
tanks that have managed to break through the main battle position 
will usually have to be delayed until daybreak, when they can be 
taken care of by antitank and artillery pieces. 

Whenever the defender recognizes the imminence of a major 
enemy offensive, he should adopt appropriate countermeasures for 


Original from 




the hours of darkness. The outpost area should be evacuated to 
prevent excessive casualties from preparatory fire. However 
much terrain the defender decides to abandon, he must not forget 
that his objective is possession of the MLR by the time the engage- 
ment is over. 

XII. Retrograde Movements 

The best time to withdraw from action is after a successful 
defense. Darkness facilitates disengagement and may conceal a 
withdrawal from enemy observation and reconnaissance for a 
relatively long period. 

Once a withdrawal is under way, the retiring forces must make 
every effort to put between themselves and the enemy the maxi- 
mum distance in the shortest possible time. The hours of dark- 
ness must be used not only for the movement proper but also for 
occupying another position farther to the rear. All measures 
taken by the superior commander in charge of the withdrawal 
must facilitate smooth and rapid execution of the night movement. 

To conceal the disengagement, a covering force should remain 
in contact with the enemy until the main body is already well on 
its way to the rear. The covering force is left in position with the 
mission of simulating normal night activity of the full garrison. 
An infantry division would leave a covering force composed of 
one or two rifle companies with heavy weapons support in each 
regimental sector. If possible, one roving gun should be left in 
each battery position. Normal radio traffic should be maintained 
so long as the covering force remains in contact with the enemy. 
Radio intelligence produces particularly valuable results during 
this phase of the fighting. 

The covering force within each division sector should be placed 
under one commander who will also be responsible for the demo- 
lition of bridges after the last elements have crossed them. 

When large bodies of troops are being withdrawn over long dis- 
tances, it is advisable to leave only mobile troops in contact with 
the enemy. Their strength will be in proportion to the supplies 
available for their use. Ample provision of ammunition and fuel 
is essential. If tanks are to be included in the covering force, it 
must be remembered that any minor breakdown caused by me- 
chanical failure may lead to the total loss of the vehicle. Adequate 
recovery equipment and sufficient engineer troops must be as- 
signed to the covering force. 

The following preparations should be made to guarantee the 
smooth withdrawal of the main body of troops : 

Dig ill 


Original from 




a. All elements that can be spared, especially the service units, 
should be evacuated as early as possible. The ammunition and 
fuel supplies required for continued operations and for the march 
movement should be stored along the routes of withdrawal. 

b. The withdrawing elements should be grouped into independ- 
ent combat forces capable of fighting their way to the rear, if 
forced to do so. 

c. Nonessential signal equipment should be dismantled and 
transferred to the new position in the rear. In any event, a reserve 
of signal equipment must be set aside before the start of the 

d. A number of measures must be taken to avoid delays during 
the course of the withdrawal ; these include traffic regulation, es- 
tablishment of a recovery service, reconnoitering, and marking 
roads and detours. All signs must be removed by the last unit 
passing through the area. 

Antiaircraft units must protect the march columns against en- 
emy air attacks. Combat aviation may assist the withdrawing 
ground forces by attacking the pursuing enemy troops, thus delay- 
ing their advance. 

Intermediate covering positions should be established in suit- 
able terrain to protect the withdrawing units against unexpected 
enemy attacks. By defending those positions the covering forces 
will permit the main body of troops to continue its withdrawal 
without interference. The covering detachments should be com- 
posed of infantry, artillery, antitank, and engineer troops. In 
some instances antiaircraft batteries may be attached to the cov- 
ering detachments. Flank protection is essential if the enemy 
attempts to envelop the withdrawing forces from adjacent sectors 
or by using side roads, or if he tries to block the route of with- 
drawal. Reserves should be set aside to cover the flanks. 

The superior commander must move to the rear as soon as the 
withdrawal from action has taken place without major incident. 
Aside from controlling the retrograde movement of troops and 
taking precautionary measures to protect the flanks, his principal 
preoccupation must be to organize the defense of the new position 
or to regroup his forces for a different assignment. 

Any measure that might betray one's intention to withdraw, 
such as the burning of supplies and stored equipment, premature 
demolitions in rear areas, or increased vehicular traffic must be 

XIII. Position Warfare 

a. Reconnaissance. In position warfare the reconnaissance ele- 






ments have the following missions : 

(1) To capture prisoners by sending out combat patrols or 
intercepting enemy patrols ; 

(2) To obtain information on the intentions of the enemy 
forces by determining at which points they have cleared 
mines and cut gaps into the barbed wire obstacles ; and 

(3) To ascertain the strength and disposition of the enemy 
forces in the outpost area and their movements behind 
the lines — this information is needed for launching an 
attack on the enemy positions. 

A reconnaissance in force will constitute the most effective 
means of clarifying an uncertain situation and obtaining informa- 
tion on the enemy's strength, the disposition of his artillery pieces, 
and the number of infantry heavy weapons at his disposal. This 
information will permit the superior commander to draw valid 
conclusions as to the enemy's intentions. In many instances the 
same purpose can be achieved by deceptive measures designed to 
draw enemy fire, such as firing a concentration of all weapons on 
the enemy positions for only a few minutes. 

Air reconnaissance over the enemy positions, battery emplace- 
ments, and over localities in the proximity of the front will pro- 
vide information on changes in the enemy situation. Regular 
flights should be scheduled before dark and shortly after dawn for 
the purpose of photographing these areas. The aerial photo- 
graphs, together with their evaluation, should be made available 
to the front-line commanders as soon as possible, since the latter 
can obtain a clear picture of the enemy situation only by collating 
air and ground reconnaissance information. 

b. Security. During the night, outposts beyond the MLR should 
not be maintatined at the same points as during daytime ; frequent 
changes will prevent their becoming an easy prey for enemy pa- 
trols. Any kind of routine schedule in posting sentries at night 
should be avoided. 

c. Troop Disposition. Only sentries and patrols equipped with 
small arms and a few light machine guns should occupy the out- 
post area. The bulk of the defense forces should be in the battle 
position. If an impending enemy attack is recognized in time, the 
outposts should be reinforced unless zone defense tactics are ap- 
plied. In the event that the enemy makes a surprise attack, he 
ought to be stopped at the MLR; contact with adjacent sectors 
should be re-established and a counterthrust initiated. The re- 
serves are to be assembled near the company CP so that the com- 
pany commander can lead the counterthrust, which should pref- 
erably be conducted against the flank of the enemy penetration. 

RESTRICTED Original from 




d. Measures to Prevent Infiltration. Trip wires should be strung 
along the wire obstacles and at other points of the outpost area. 
These wires should be connected to an alarm system, including 
floodlights. Midget radar devices are superior to all others in un- 
covering infiltration attempts. Patrols must constantly cross the 
outpost area, and a dense communication network, extending to 
the outpost area, should be set up. 

No listening posts should be positioned beyond the outpost area 
at night. Double sentries should be stationed at the outposts, and 
these should be in contact with one another. Machine guns and 
mortars emplaced in the outpost area should be firmly anchored to 
prevent the enemy from carrying them off. 

e. Combat Patrols. Patrol activity serves the purpose of recon- 
noitering, capturing prisoners, and seizing strong points. These 
operations may be carried out in strength with intensive artillery 
preparation to eliminate resistance in the enemy outpost area or 
they may be staged without such preparation by weak forces that 
can be assembled without attracting the enemy's attention. While 
the combat patrol attempts to penetrate the enemy outpost area, 
the artillery should deliver counterbattery and interdiction fires, 
the latter to seal off from the rear that section of the enemy po- 
sition under attack, thus preventing the arrival of reinforcements 
or the launching of a counterattack. Once the patrol has crossed 
the zone of hostile interdiction fire, the enemy artillery will usually 
have little effect because of its lack of flexibility in darkness. 

The members of the patrol must be well acquainted with terrain 
conditions and with every detail of their mission. The use of de- 
ception and diversionary measures may be indicated. Because of 
their greater effectiveness in close combat, the men should be 
equipped with light individual weapons and flame throwers rather 
than heavy weapons. 

Patrols should adhere to a fixed timetable. Improper use of 
light signals usually leads to confusion that might jeopardize the 
success of the operation. 


Original from 




I. Characteristics and Training of the Russian Soldier 

In World War II, as in preceding wars, the Russian soldier 
demonstrated that he was closer to nature than his west European 
counterpart. This was hardly surprising since most of the Rus- 
sian soldiers were born and raised far from big cities. The civilian 
occupation of the typical Russian soldier was that of a farmer, 
lumberjack, or huntsman. From early childhood he had been used 
to covering long distances across difficult terrain, orienting him- 
self by conspicuous features on the ground, by the stars, and often 
simply by following his natural instincts. The manifold dangers 
that were ever present in the wide-open Russian countryside were 
bound to sharpen his senses, particularly his sight and hearing. 
Even the city dwellers, most of whom had only recently been 
transplanted to the densely populated cities as part of the indus- 
trialization of the Soviet Union and the resulting concentration of 
labor masses, remained relatively close to nature. Being attuned 
to the vast open spaces and desolate steppes with which a large 
part of his country is covered, the Russian did not know the de- 
pressing loneliness and forlornness that often overwhelmed the 
German soldier. The Russian was accustomed to getting along 
with a minimum of comfort and equipment under climatic con- 
ditions that imposed severe hardship on the invader. 

The Russian was able to move without a sound and orient him- 
self in the darkness. On a night patrol he instinctively behaved 
like a huntsman who is careful to avoid making the slightest noise. 
During long night vigils the German sentries, on the other hand, 
often saw no harm in conversing or lighting a cigarette or pipe 
just to lessen their drowsiness. When reporting to a superior who 
was checking their post, they spoke in a loud voice without realiz- 
ing that they often permitted the intently listening Russian who 
was hiding in the immediate vicinity to gather valuable informa- 
tion. When their not-to-keen ears picked up a suspicious sound, 
German sentries often fired Very pistols, thus giving away their 
position to the enemy. Since the Germans were in the habit of 
posting sentries at the same place night after night over periods 
of several weeks or even months, Russian agents who were watch- 
ing the sentries perform their routine duties were able to infiltrate 
the German lines without danger to themselves. In contrast to 
the stereotype way in which the Germans posted their guards at 






night, the Russians changed the location of their posts constantly. 

The Russian soldier performed particularly well as a night ob- 
server. Stern discipline and self -constraint enabled him to lie 
motionless for hours and observe the German troops at close range 
without being detected. He waited patiently for the most favor- 
able opportunity to carry out his mission. 

Russian junior officers were accustomed to act in accordance 
with rigid orders. Upon encountering unexpected resistance they 
were easily confused and, in the event of a surprise counterattack 
against the flank of their unit, often helpless. 

In general, Russian night combat training was adapted to the 
terrain conditions and the characteristics of the average soldier. 
The exigencies of war led to an intensification of the training with 
emphasis on trickery, cunning, and deception rather than ortho- 
dox tactical doctrine and independent imaginative thinking. 

II. Movements 

Russian night movements were in many ways similar to those 
of the Germans, and the organization and composition of Russian 
march columns resembled the German pattern. Along wide roads 
two columns would move abreast. The Russian troops' familiarity 
with terrain conditions and the support they received from the ci- 
vilian populace enabled them to undertake cross-country marches 
in terrain that was frequently considered impassable by their op- 
ponents. Both in the planning and the execution of night move- 
ments the Russian commanders were ruthless. The welfare 
and care of troops were of secondary importance, and whoever 
dropped out was left behind. This was particularly true during 
the Russian retrograde movements in 1941 and 1942. 

Concentrations preparatory to major offensive operations al- 
ways took place at night. Truck columns would haul the attack 
formations over long distances ; the detrucking points were usu- 
ally outside inhabited localities. The troops then marched on foot 
to the assembly areas — also at night — and immediately began to 
dig in. Armored and motorized infantry formations were brought 
up from the rear at the close of the assembly phase. In 1944, 
when the German power of resistance was deteriorating at a rapid 
pace, the Russians, apparently conscious of their numerical and 
material superiority, made little effort to conceal their night move- 
ments and permitted their motor vehicles to drive without dim- 
ming their lights. 

In winter the Russians often used tanks to break roads through 
the snow. As soon as these roads froze solid they formed an ex- 
cellent communications net behind the front. The following inci- 






dent illustrates the Russian adeptness in moving over ice by night. 
During the winter of 1941-42 the southern wing of the German 
front was anchored on the north shore of the Sea of Azov at 
Taganrog. The south shore was still in Russian hands. By Janu- 
ary the water had frozen so solid that troops could move across 
the ice. At night Russian units up to and even above battalion 
strength crossed the ice ; they spent the day a few miles off shore 
lying motionless on the ice. As soon as darkness set in they pro- 
ceeded to the shore and raided German billets and rear installa- 
tions, then withdrew before daybreak. Even though the Russians 
suffered many casualties from frostbite, they continued their 
night raids as long as the water remained frozen. 

III. Reconnaissance 

When the Russian soldier was sent out on a reconnaissance mis- 
sion, he was not confronted by any unusual problems. His natural 
cunning as well as his typically Slavic astuteness and cleverness 
stood him in good stead. That he was moving across his own terri- 
tory and found ready support from the local populace were un- 
doubtedly important but not decisive factors in helping him to 
achieve success. 

The Russian command often combined ground reconnaissance 
missions with reconnaissance in force and occasionally with full- 
fledged night operations. The remarkable feature was the strength 
of the units that were always employed for night reconnaissance 
in force. At times units up to regimental strength carried out 
such missions, despite very heavy losses incurred by massing so 
many troops. The Russian field commanders continued to apply 
the same methods up to the end of the war, undoubtedly because 
the presence of such strong bodies of troops complicated the task 
of the considerably weaker German reconnaissance elements. Oc- 
casionally, the Russians added tanks to reconnaissance units, thus 
giving the infantry patrols support and protection. Along some 
sectors of the front horse cavalry was employed on night recon- 

In some instances individual Russian reconnaissance patrols, 
led by capable and energetic officers, managed to slip through gaps 
or weakly held positions in the German front under cover of dark- 
ness. They either restricted their activities to obtaining infor- 
mation or expanded the scope of their mission by disrupting wire 
communications, laying mines, and carrying out commando-type 
raids on CP's. 

In general the Russian reconnaissance methods were efficient 
and adapted to the conditions prevailing during the hours of dark- 



Original from 




ness. During fighting on the Kerch Peninsula in the winter of 
1942 the Germans captured Russian soldiers who had spent two 
nights and one day in the immediate vicinity of the German po- 
sitions and who had been able to obtain a wealth of information 
during that time. In another instance that occurred during the 
autumn of 1941, the advance guard of a German infantry division 
was attacked during the night in a large village where the rein- 
forced battalion had stopped on the way to Kharkov. After the 
Russian attack had been beaten off, the German battalion com- 
mander found that a Russian rifle platoon had been left behind 
in the village after all other troops had withdrawn and that the 
men had concealed themselves in groups of two or three in thet 
dunghills near the farm buildings. Their mission was to observe 
the Germans after their entry into the village and to communi- 
cate the information to their parent unit, which was hiding in a 
near-by woods with the intention of launching a surprise attack. 

IV. Infiltration 

Infiltration by small detachments, as well as by larger units up 
to an entire division, was probably the most effective Russian 
method of night combat. It was effective at all times because the 
Russians were able to penetrate seemingly impassable terrain in 
any kind of weather, all the more so when it was as poorly de- 
fended, as during the latter part of the campaign. Once the short- 
age of manpower had forced the German Army to resort to a sys- 
tem of defensive strong points rather than continuous lines, the 
Russians could employ their favorite night tactics to their greatest 
advantage. Time and again their troops slipped through a lightly 
held sector during the night and were securely established behind 
the German front by the next morning. 

A good illustration of infiltration by night and its serious conse- 
quences was provided by a Russian infantry battalion in Febru- 
ary 1942. The action occurred in the area north of Shala, about 
fifty miles southeast of Leningrad, and began during a snow- 
storm. Personnel of the Russian battalion moved on skis, pulling 
light and heavy infantry weapons on sleds. (Map 2) 

In single file the troops traversed the Kovrigino swamp, just 
north of Konduya, during darkness and passed silently between 
two strong points of the 269th Infantry Division. Once estab- 
lished in the rear of the division, the Russians lay low during the 
day, but came to life night after night. They sowed mines along 
the routes of communication, attacked columns bringing up ra- 
tions and ammunition, and assaulted command posts and heavy 
weapons positions. Every German detachment had to be on the 


Digitized by GoO< 

Original from 




Map 2 


5 10 

I » 


alert throughout the night, and every morning mine-clearing 
squads had to remove the mines planted during the previous night. 

It was not too difficult to detect the activities of the Russians 
because their tracks were clearly visible in the snow. But the 
German troops were not equipped with skis and were, there- 
fore, unable to pursue the Russians who disappeared in the vast, 
wooded, and uninhabited region in the daytime. At night the 
enemy force-received ammunition, weapons, and rations by air- 






drop and continued its destructive activities on such a scale that 
counteraction became imperative. By an intensive German effort, 
* the Russian battalion was gradually ferreted out and annihilated 
after a series of costly engagements. 

For some weeks the communications of an entire division had 
been threatened and every night the Germans suffered casualties 
and losses of materiel. With men trained in night combat on skis, 
the division wolud have been able to eliminate the threat promptly. 

During the following month the 269th Infantry Division was 
again subjected to extensive Russian infiltration. The division 
was still engaged in heavy defensive fighting in the Konduya area. 
The situation grew so critical that the regimental command posts 
had to be set up in the MLR and the division CP, only some 1,000 
yards to the rear, in a dense forest. 

One morning at daybreak Markayevskaya, a village located 
about two miles behind the front along the only communication 
route, was suddenly attacked by approximately 600 Russians com- 
ing from the rear. The division trains and some elements of the 
signal battalion engaged the Russians in hand-to-hand fighting 
and, though the German forces suffered heavy casualties, they 
were able to restore the situation and thereby avert a complete 

The presence of the Russian force had not been observed by any 
component of the German division, but it was assumed that the 
enemy battalion had effected a night crossing of the Markayev- 
skaya swamp, considered impassable at the time. Thus there was 
a combination of elements, such as the cover of darkness, infiltra- 
tion tactics, and difficult terrain, which the Russians exploited 
time and again. 

By 1943 most sectors of the German front were easily pene- 
trated by the Russians during the hours of darkness. Numerical 
weakness forced the German commanders to group their men in 
a system of strong points, while small detachments made periodic 
night patrols across the intermediate terrain. This German weak- 
ness was quickly noted by the alert opponents. At night they 
silently slipped through the gaps in the German defense system 
and quickly established themselves unless the Germans launched 
an immediate counterattack. A number of such penetrations gen- 
erally resulted in the loss of the German position, since the under- 
strength units were unable to defend themselves on both sides. 

In August 1943 the XXXIX Panzer Corps, composed of the 18th 
Panzer Grenadier and 337th Infantry Divisions, was withdraw- 
ing according to plan from the area north of Dorogobuzh toward 
Smolensk. Some sixteen miles east of the confluence of the Dnepr 
and Vop Rivers, the corps had established a delaying position 


Original from 




against which the pursuing Russians exerted strong pressure. 
(Map 3) 

On 17 August the corps commander had to commit the last avail- 
able reserves to hold off superior Russian forces. The 337th Di- 
vision pulled out every last squad from those sectors that were not 
under attack and moved these troops to the Dorogobuzh-Smolensk 
road to prevent an enemy break-through. Along a swampy area 
situated some five miles south of the road, the division commander 
left only weak security detachments. Nothing unusual was ob- 
served during the night of 17-18 August. 

On the morning of 18 August the Russian attacks against the 
337th Division front slackened noticeably. However, at about 
1200 an ammunition column that was setting up a dump approxi- 
mately four miles behind the front was fired on from a wooded 
area near by. During the early afternoon German reconnaissance 
elements reported that the western and northern edge of this woods 
was held by enemy forces of unknown strength. Since these Rus- 
sian forces would be able to interfere with traffic along the Doro- 
gobuzh-Smolensk road, the corps engineer battalion was given the 
mission of clearing the woods the next morning. In addition, the 
corps commander reinforced the troops guarding the Dnepr and 
Vop bridges south of Yartsevo. 

RESTRICTED Originalfrom 





During the night of 18-19 August the engineer battalion moved 
to the wooded area and assembled for an attack that was launched 
early the next morning. Upon entering the woods the battalion 
encountered no Russian troops. Obviously, the Russians had with- 

On the morning of 20 August the German troops guarding the 
eastern approaches to the Vop bridge, about eight miles south of 
Yartsevo, reported that they were being attacked by superior 
enemy forces. The Russians were repelled with the assistance of 
service troops and personnel from corps headquarters. At the 
time it was assumed that the attack had been made by strong par- 
tisan forces who had previously been active in this area. Since 
the lines of communications between the Vop bridge and the 18th 
Panzer Grenadier Division had to be kept open, the corps assigned 
two engineer battalions and one infantry battalion the mission of 
cleaning out the intermediate wooded area. During the night of 
20-21 August these units assembled for an attack against the 
"partisans." While the preparations were under way, it was 
learned that shortly after nightfall the troops guarding the Dnepr 
bridge had been attacked by enemy forces, estimated at one to 
two companies and equipped with mortars and infantry heavy 
weapons. The raiders were repulsed by the strengthened guard. 

On the morning of 21 August the three battalions began to comb 
the forest northeast of the Vop bridge. By good fortune they ran 
almost immediately against a Russian regimental headquarters, 
which they overpowered. Enemy resistance thereupon slackened 
and about 150 prisoners were captured, all belonging to a regiment 
that had infiltrated the German MLR four nights earlier. 

Prisoner interrogation revealed that the entire regiment had 
infiltrated the German MLR south of the Smolensk road by night 
and had assembled in the woods four miles behind the 337th Di- 
vision's lines. The mission of the Russian regiment was to cut the 
German lines of communications by capturing the Dnepr and Vop 
bridges and to support by an attack from the rear the frontal 
assault on the German lines that was scheduled for 22 August. 
On 18 August, when the regimental commander realized that the 
presence of his unit in the woods had been discovered by the Ger- 
mans, he waited until darkness and led his regiment northward 
across the Dorogobuzh-Smolensk road. Upon reaching the south 
bank of the Dnepr he divided his force, leaving one battalion in 
the forest south of the river and crossing with the other on impro- 
vised floats. He spent the next day hiding in the forest northeast 
of the Vop bridge and let the supply trucks of the 18th Panzer 
Grenadier Division pass through without interference in order to 
escape detection by the Germans. During the night he assembled 


Original from 




his forces for the attack on the Vop bridge and, after its failure, 
he moved to the battalion on the south bank of the river and led 
it in the night attack on the Dnepr bridge. 

Despite their failure to reach the designated objectives, the 
Russian forces demonstrated remarkable skill in infiltrating the 
.German lines by night without being observed and in reassem- 
bling in the woods south of the highway. During the subsequent 
days the Russians moved quietly and withstood the temptation of 
making daylight attacks on near-by objectives, with the result 
that they escaped notice several nights in a row. Another notable 
feat was the night crossing of the Dnepr without the use of any 
bridging equipment. 

Here, as in many other instances, most of the infiltrated Rus- 
sians were annihilated, but not until they had caused much dam- 
age and confusion, and had tied down considerable German man- 
power. Along all sectors of the Russian front German units were 
plagued by constant infiltrations at night, which meant that troops 
at the front and in rear areas had to be especially alert during 

V. Offensive Operations 

Russian doctrine on the conduct of night attacks underwent 
many changes during World War II, both with regard to the ob- 
jective that was to be attained and the methods of execution. The 
performance of the Russian unit leaders improved gradually. 
Whereas at the beginning of the campaign Russian commanders 
often demonstrated a lack of initiative and resoluteness, they exe- 
cuted many very daring maneuvers toward the end of the war. 
During the initial phase of the campaign they often failed to ex- 
ploit an opening, but their conduct of operations gradually im- 
proved so much that eventually they were able to score major 
victories, especially since German resistance was diminishing and 
the defense usually lacked depth. 

In 1941, after the German offensive had ground to a halt, the 
Russians reorganized their units by the integration of thousands 
of insufficiently trained infantry replacements. The night attacks 
executed by these units often were not properly co-ordinated. 
Massed infantry, insufficiently supported by artillery, was hurled 
against the German lines, its sole objective being the seizure of 
the outpost area. At this time the Russian command followed the 
World War I pattern of massed night attacks that nearly always 

By 1942 the Russian night combat methods had been improved 
on the basis of the lessons learned from experience. Tanks that 






had been concealed during daytime suddenly made an appearance 
at dusk or in darkness. The probable reason for the employment 
of armor at night was that poor visibility protected the Russian 
tanks from the otherwise too accurate German antitank fire. In 
general, night attacks launched during this phase had only limited 
objectives. During the preparatory stage of such attacks, the Rus- 
sians proved very skilled and courageous in clearing German 
mines by hand. Even in deep snow and extreme cold they spent 
long nights searching for mines. When they found them, they 
often merely detached the fuses and then covered the mines with 
a layer of dirt or snow. 

Russian commanders had no scruples about casualties when a 
mine field had to be cleared in a hurry. On 28 December 1942 on 
the Kerch Peninsula, for instance, a Russian penal battalion was 
driven across a particularly dense German mine field during the 
hours of darkness which preceded the attack. The casualties were 
very high, but several lanes were cleared for the follow-up units. 

In another instance, occurring on the night of 1-2 December 
1942 in the sector of the German Army Group Center, the Russian 
II Cavalry Corps with three horse cavalry divisions attempted to 
exploit a three-mile daytime advance achieved by armored units 
twenty miles south of Rzhev. Making full use of the cover of dark- 
ness, the cavalry units sped across the snow in open formation, 
disregarding the losses inflicted by a few remaining German ma- 
chine gunners and riflemen, and a weak artillery barrage. The 
Russians penetrated the German lines and, without exploiting 
their success, returned to their starting positions during the same 
night. Their objective was never known. 

A few months later, in mid-August 1943, in the southern sector 
of the German front the Russians attacked with overwhelming 
forces and in the course of the day overran a weak, battle-weary 
German division. By nightfall the Russian infantry and armor 
stood about four miles behind the former German MLR within 
reach of a stream which, according to a map captured by the Ger- 
mans, was their immediate objective. Contrary to their previous 
practice the Russians did not halt but immediately went on to 
exploit their success. During the same night, after crossing the 
river, they broke through the hastily organized German position, 
and by dawn Russian tanks stood far to the rear of the German 
lines. The Russian break-through could not be offset by counter- 
measures and led to decisive developments in this area. In this 
instance a bold Russian night attack could not be contained by the 
weak German defense. 

By 1944 the Russians often continued during the hours of dark- 
ness a major offensive operation they had started in the early 





morning hours. Armor always led the way. Even when carried 
out on a wide front, these attacks usually bogged down in the Ger- 
man battle position, although they occasionally penetrated up to 
the artillery emplacements. The slow progress of the attackers 
usually left the German commander sufficient time to move up 
reserves, which were able to restore the situation by the next 
morning. In the summer of that year the Russians introduced a 
new procedure. Before major offensives they would use deceptive 
and diversionary measures on a wide front. At the point of main 
effort they would commit infantry units supported by tanks in a 
night attack with limited objective. Evidently the intention was 
4 to soften up the German defense at night and to open gaps for the 
follow-up units. Heavy artillery preparations usually preceded 
the infantry assault. At the crack of dawn armored formations, 
held in reserve for the break-through, went into action. 

VI. Defensive Operations 

The Russians were always prepared to defend themselves, even 
during the short lulls that occur during any offensive operation. 
Wherever they stopped, they dug in and vanished from sight. As 
a rule Russian defensive positions were organized in great depth 
and held by strong infantry forces. Cover and concealment were 
excellent. Dense wire entanglements and well-laid mine fields in 
conjunction with ceaseless night reconnaissance provided a high 
degree of security. A multitude of heavy weapons, multiple rocket 
projectors, flame throwers, and artillery pieces gave the defensive 
system a firm backbone. However, the Russians did have difficulty 
at night in effectively co-ordinating artillery fire and in neutraliz- 
ing the German artillery by counterbattery fire. Apparently, they 
either lacked well-trained observation battalions and flash and 
sound-ranging batteries, or else they did not employ them effec- 
tively. Their flat-trajectory night fire on roads, crossroads, and 
prominent landmarks was often very accurate, probably as a 
result of highly developed meteorological observation and an accu- 
rate knowledge of climatic factors. 

Counterattacks, most of them supported by tanks, were well pre- 
pared and executed with great assurance. At points where the 
Russians expected German armored thrusts they often set up anti- 
tank fronts interspersed with individual tanks. 

On the whole, Russian defensive tactics lacked flexibility during 
the early stage of the campaign. The German experience of the 
last year of the war indicated, however, that the Russian command 
and troops had adopted the principal features of the more mobile 
and flexible German tactics. 






An order, issued by Marshal Semyon Timoshenko in 1941 and 
captured by the Germans during their advance toward Moscow, 
encouraged the Russian troops to make more use of night fighting, 
close combat, and fighting in the extensive forests. These three 
types of combat, he stated, were the forte of the Russians and the 
weakness of the Germans, who placed too much reliance on their 
machines. At night and in the forests, he continued, mechanical 
equipment loses some of its effectiveness, and hand-to-hand fight- 
ing, for which the Russians have a traditional aptitude, comes 
into its own. 

VII. Retrograde Movements 

The only Russian strategic withdrawal occurred at the very 
beginning of the German campaign. During the initial phase of 
the retrograde movement the Russians executed consecutive night 
marches with two columns often marching abreast. After the 
initial shock of the German attack had worn off, the Russians 
began to fight a series of delaying actions. During the battles of 
encirclement that took place during this phase, the Russians in 
the pockets would abandon their heavy weapons, equipment, and 
supplies and, taking advantage of the hours of darkness, would 
attempt to break through the German ring. Masses of infantry 
would hurl themselves against the German lines at what seemed 
to the Germans the most unfavorable points, that is to say, in open 
terrain, far away from any road or highway. 

In carrying out retrograde movements at night Russian field 
commanders had no qualms about sacrificing rear guard units, 
which were often ordered to fight to the last man. In such emer- 
gencies the civilian populace was put to work digging antitank 
ditches, delaying positions, dummy fortifications, etc. The impor- 
tance of mines in night combat operations was fully realized by 
the Russians from the very beginning of the campaign. Whereas 
the Russians employed armor during every phase of this retro- 
grade movement, their air force intervened only rarely. 

VIII. Partisan Warfare 

Shortly after the start of the Russian campaign partisans began 
to harass the German rear areas, especially in the central and 
southern regions of Russia. Time and again German logistical 
plans were threatened by nightly partisan forays on supply instal- 
lations, rail lines, and other important military objectives. De- 
struction in the rear areas was often as costly as losses at the 






The effectiveness of night attacks by partisans was demon- 
strated by the experience of the 98th Infantry Division after its 
withdrawal across the Kerch Straits late in 1943. Behind the di- 
vision front there was an extensive system of underground quar- 
ries near Adzhim-Ushkay, two miles northeast of Kerch, which 
were interconnected by long subterranean galleries. The partisans 
hidden in these quarries were well equipped, and they undoubtedly 
maintained contact with the Russian units across the straits. 

Starting at dusk, partisans equipped with infantry heavy weap- 
ons emerged from their inaccessible hideouts to cut German supply 
lines, destroy signal installations, and attack weak German service 
units. At daybreak they disappeared without giving the German 
troops an opportunity to come to grips with them. 

In this primitive country, with its many inaccessible hiding 
places, the Germans were at a loss to combat the partisans effec- 
tively because the latter were able to attack in small groups during 
the hours of darkness and then vanish. In view of his limited 
manpower the local commander was unable to cope with this per- 
sistent menace. 

In the spring of 1944 the German V Corps was engaged in heavy 
defensive battles near the city of Kerch. At that time the* corps' 
line of communications was subjected to frequent night attacks 
at points some sixty miles west of the front line. Partisan forces 
numbering 400 to 1,000 men made frequent night attacks on ve- 
hicles moving along the supply route Simferopol-Karasubazar- 
Feodosiya, as well as on villages in the same area. The partisans 
were hiding in the inaccessible Yaila Mountains of the Southern 
Crimea, where they were supplied by nightly airdrops. As a coun- 
termeasure, the corps furnished armed escorts for vehicles moving 
in convoy, but this meant a considerable diversion of manpower 
for the hard-pressed corps. No matter how vigorously German 
units combatted these and other partisan groups, there was no end 
to partisan night attacks behind the front and especially against 
rear installations. Darkness was the protector of the partisan, 
particularly in difficult terrain that the numerically weak German 
troops were often unable to comb. 

RESTRICTED 0rigina|from 





I. Movements 

In the course of the Russian campaign night movements became 
increasingly important in planning and executing operations, 
since the German field commanders realized that marching units 
needed the protection of darkness if excessive losses were to be 
avoided. However, night marches were often hampered by the 
dearth of good roads and by sudden changes in the weather, 
which often made the existing roads impassable in the midst of 
a movement. 

Careful preparation of all night marches was imperative. This 
included detailed advance road reconnaissance, establishment of 
traffic control posts, employment of engineers to repair defective 
portions of the roads, availability of recovery and evacuation 
crews, use of luminous road markers, and good camouflage of the 
marching units. In composing his march serial each commander 
had to anticipate possible interference by enemy air and ground 
forces, including partisans. 

During a night motor march each serial was assigned phase 
lines, which facilitated proper movement control. Headlights 
were removed or painted blue, while blackout lights were carried 
in the rear. Traffic control personnel and unit commanders down 
to the squad leaders were equipped with red and blue flashlights. 

Radio silence was observed during the march ; however, stations 
in the various nets were standing by. Field switchboards tied in 
with existing lines were used in rear areas. During bright nights 
liaison planes were employed to good advantage for traffic control. 

When motorized elements marched toward the front, they had a 
tendency to delay dismounting as they approached the enemy. 
This was particularly true during the early part of the campaign. 
An effective countermeasure was the setting up of phase lines, 
where the men were ordered to detruck. When motorized or ar- 
mored units moved to assembly areas close to the front, it was 
found expedient to cover the noise of their motors by firing artil- 
lery and heavy weapons in their vicinity. During these move- 
ments in close proximity to the front, it was desirable to bypass 
road junctions and villages, as they were the favorite targets of 
Russian artillery. It should be noted, however, that an extensive 
movement control organization was required to effect such bypass- 
ing during darkness. 


Original from 




II. Reconnaissance 

The German troops needed various aids to perform their duties 
during darkness; most soldiers had to be conditioned to being 
outdoors at night because their senses had, been dulled by city life. 
It was particularly difficult for them to find their way in the gen- 
erally monotonous Russian countryside, which contained very few 
good reference points. 

Among the expedients used by reconnaissance units were the 
firing of tracer ammunition and of star shells, dropping of flares 
from planes, and the intermittent employment of searchlights in 
pairs behind the front. There was little motorized or armored 
night reconnaissance because vehicles are heard a long way off 
and attract attention. However, in situations where night recon- 
naissance elements had to cover long distances, motorized re- 
connaissance forces were sent out. As they approached the enemy, 
they dismounted and continued on foot. 

Artillery night reconnaissance was mainly a function of the 
sound and flash ranging sections of the corps artillery observation 
battalions. Firing data were computed with the aid of the mete- 
orological section whenever immediate fire was to be delivered. 
During completely dark nights German observation battalions 
tried to use captive balloons for detailed reconnaissance over wide 
areas, but this procedure was applied successfully only on a few 

III. Offensive Operations 

German units carried out night attacks to exploit successes 
achieved in daytime, as a prelude to major offensive operations, to 
restore the situation where the enemy had achieved a local success, 
and to camouflage the execution of other operations, such as a 
retrograde movement. 

The starting time for night attacks was set with due regard 
for the inherent difficulties of fighting in the dark. Action at 
night was always time consuming; yet, it was usually desirable 
to conclude any operation before daybreak. The unit commander 
had to consider these two factors and evaluate his own and the 
enemy situation before he decided to launch a night attack. 

The terrain in Russia was rarely ideal for night attack. In 
many instances there was good cover for the approach, but the 
enemy-held territory usually did not afford good visibility, so that 
the opponent's preparations for defense could not be observed. 
Whenever there was danger of encountering strong, well-prepared 
enemy forces, night attacks had to be launched in a direction from 
which they were not expected. 






The success of a night attack depended on careful preparation, 
proper timing, and selection of favorable terrain. Detailed evalua- 
tion of information gathered by air and ground reconnaissance, 
thorough analysis of captured maps, study of the terrain by the 
maximum number of officers, road reconnaissance and marking, 
and provisions for adequate supplies were some of the preparatory 
measures. Before issuing the operation order the commander dis- 
cussed his plan in detail and answered questions requiring clari- 
fication, so that every officer knew exactly what was expected of 
him and his men. 

These careful preparations applied also to major attacks started 
before dawn and continued during daylight. Before such opera- 
tions many nights were required to ready a large body of troops. 
Attacks scheduled to last but a single night were generally con- 
fined to a limited objective not too distant from the starting posi- 
tion. Even these relatively minor operations required thorough 
preparations to avoid enemy traps or other disagreeable surprises. 

The following example shows how carefully LVI Panzer Corps 
prepared an attack during darkness in the area west of the Dnepr 
River in September 1941. The objective of the operation was 
Vyazma, about sixty miles to the east. The situation in the area 
had been static for several weeks with the 290th Infantry Division 
holding the front. (Map 4) 

For the attack, which started on 2 October, three additional 
divisions were brought up from other areas — the 6th and 7th 
Panzer Divisions, and one armored infantry division. Improve- 
ment of the poor road net was begun as early as 20 Septem- 
ber. Other preparations included the reinforcement of numerous 
bridges, aerial photography of enemy-held terrain, nuisance raids 
by a few planes to obscure the noise of traffic on the ground, and 
maintenance of traffic along the main north-south road to simu- 
late normal supply activity. 

On the night of D minus 3 the forward echelons of the two 
panzer divisions were moved to their assembly areas near the 
front, so that they could familiarize themselves with local con- 
ditions. This also gave the artillery units two days to determine 
their firing position and data, and to establish observation posts. 

The next night the motorized infantry elements of the two 
panzer divisions were brought up to the area west of the major 
north-south road, where they detrucked. The vehicles were parked 
farther to the rear. 

During the last night before the attack all assault troops were 
moved to the jump-off positions, where the forward echelons of 
their respective units awaited them. The 290th Infantry Division 
regrouped its forces for the impending attack, while the armored 

RESTRICTED Original from 




Map 4 

(30 September-2 October 1941) 

5 10 


infantry division was held back as corps reserve. At the same 
time the tanks and empty trucks of the two panzer divisions were 
moved up to the north-south road. 

The operation itself started an hour after dawn and was suc- 
cessfully completed at H plus 30 hours when a bridgehead was 
firmly established east of the Dnepr near Cholm. No doubt the 
carefully camouflaged night preparations of the corps during the 
preceding weeks were a major factor, for the Russian troops appar- 
ently had not anticipated an attack by an entire corps. 

RESTRICTED Original from 




In another instance the Germans launched a night attack on a 
smaller scale in the sector southeast of Mogilev in January 1944. 
(Map 5) Defensive positions were held by the German 56th In- 
fantry Division, whose front had been pushed back along a 1,000- 
yard stretch to a maximum depth of approximately 500 yards. 
In the middle of this salient the Russians had established a strong 
point that afforded good observation of the German front and 
rear area. 

Map 5 

(21 January 1944) 

500 (OOO 


On 10 January the German commander decided to launch a 
counterattack to wipe out the Russian salient. Reconnaissance 
had established that the Russian strong point contained at least 
one hundred men, equipped with six to eight heavy machine guns, 
several heavy mortars, and an antitank gun. In addition, it was 
known that the Russian position was heavily mined, so that it 
had to be attacked from the rear, where it was linked to the MLR 
by a communication trench. It was also realized that the German 

uCo* RESTRICTED Original fronn 




force had to launch a surprise attack, since the Russian artillery, 
consisting of at least six batteries, would otherwise break up the 
attack. The best time for achieving surprises was during the 
hours of darkness. 

The German night attack was to be carried out by an assault 
detachment composed of one officer and thirty-five men, and 
equipped with submachine guns and two flame throwers. A cov- 
ering detachment of similar size was to follow the assault troops, 
cut the communication trench midway between the strong point 
and the Russian MLR, and protect the assault detachment against 
interference from the south. Reinforced infantry companies were 
to move to both shoulders of the Russian salient, ready to occupy 
the former German positions after the Russians evacuated. These 
two companies were to break up the expected Russian counter- 
attack by flanking thrusts. Finally, as a deceptive measure the 
reinforced German artillery was to deliver intermittent fire on the 
strong point and on other parts of the Russian front for eight 
nights prior to the operation. 

At 0230, 21 January, the assault detachment started to infiltrate 
from the flank of the salient, followed by the covering detachment. 
At 0320 a short artillery concentration was delivered on the strong 
point, followed by a feint from the west ten minutes later. At 
0335 the assault detachment entered the strong point. Simultane- 
ously, the entire German artillery shifted its fire to the southern 
part of the communication trench. Finally, at 0340 there wa§ an 
air attack on the Russian division command post. 

The operation was so successful that the assault detachment 
suffered only one casualty; heavier losses were sustained by the 
covering detachment. The success may be credited to the careful 
preparation of the assault on the Russian strong point. A rela- 
tively small and lightly armed force reached its objective and over- 
whelmed numerically superior elements because it achieved sur- 
prise by night. The Russian counterattack, launched about an 
hour after the loss of the position, was repulsed by the two Ger- 
man companies' thrusts into the flanks of the Russian attack force. 

IV. Defensive Operations 

The Germans applied the same fundamental doctrines to de- 
fensive operations by day or night. Additional precautions taken 
during the hours of darkness included strengthening outposts, all 
of which were positioned as far forward as possible; moving local 
reserves close to the MLR ; increasing reconnaissance activities to 
uncover enemy preparations for an attack ; and employing search- 


Original from 




lights and flares to light the terrain over which the attacking 
enemy had to advance. 

Artillery and infantry heavy weapons played an important role 
on the defensive. Careful preparations for night fires had to be 
made in daytime, so that concentrations or counterbattery fire 
could be ordered during the night as soon as a worth-while target 
was detected. When sufficient ammunition was available, well- 
aimed artillery fire often forced the enemy to delay or cancel his 
planned attack, or at least to change its direction. Interrogation 
of prisoners revealed that accurate night fire had a particularly 
demoralizing effect on the Russians. 

By massing overwhelming strength for night attacks the Rus- 
sians frequently penetrated the German front positions, but the 
impetus of their attacks was usually lost as soon as they ran into 
infantry reserves that had been promptly moved up. The Ger- 
mans therefore found it advisable to construct several positions in 
depth. In general the second line was 70 to 100 yards behind the 
MLR and was formed by a continuous trench with mortar and 
machine gun emplacements. About 700 yards to the rear were 
the heavy weapons, the company CP, and the company reserves. 
Barbed wire and mine fields protected the positions, and commu- 
nication trenches connected the entire system. This disposition 
enabled the reserves to move up quickly to aid the forward ele- 
ments or to seal off Russian penetrations. Mine fields were laid 
in front of the first and second lines, and a dense wire net con- 
nected the various positions with the CP. 

When German manpower became depleted, continuous positions 
could no longer be maintained. The German forces relied instead 
on a system of widely separated strong points ; however, Russian 
infiltration tactics were so effective that the Germans considered 
this defensive system merely an ejnergency improvisation, to be 
applied only when a continuous line could not be manned. 

V. Retrograde Movements 

Whenever possible German units were to take advantage of the 
hours of darkness to execute retrograde movements. Special pre- 
cautions against enveloping maneuvers and parallel pursuit were 
mandatory because the Russians with their uncanny ability to 
traverse seemingly impassable terrain usually pursued the with- 
drawing Germans relentlessly. One of the precautionary measures 
applied by the Germans was to occupy in advance all critical points 
behind the front line such as defiles, dominant hills, bridges, and 
road centers. Another measure was to organize all troops who 
could be spared at the front into independent combat forces that 






could fight their way back if it became necessary. No more troops 
were to be left in contact with the enemy than could be adequately 
supplied: "Rather fewer men, and plenty of ammunition and 
gasoline" was the accepted maxim for organizing an effective 
covering force. 

During large-scale retrograde movements, the Germans pre- 
ferred to leave mobile units in contact with the enemy. Since 
minor technical defects were liable to lead to total loss, only tanks 
in perfect condition were to be employed to screen a withdrawal. 
The Germans also found it expedient to include in the covering 
force many maintenance and recovery crews as well as strong 
engineer units equipped to carry out extensive demolitions. Addi- 
tional covering forces had to occupy the rear positions before the 
retrograde movement was initiated. 

Having made preparations, a unit commander could evacuate 
the bulk of his troops to the rear under cover of darkness, while 
the covering force simulated normal activity at the front in order 
to conceal the withdrawal from the attacking Russians. 

In the autumn of 1943, the 337th Infantry Division conducted a 
successful withdrawal in accordance with these principles. The 
operation started in the area north of Dorogobuzh and was to end 
with the occupation of the Panther position, which was under con- 
struction in the Dnepr bend east of Orsha. By the middle of Sep- 
tember the 337th Division reached a point some twelve miles 
southwest of Smolensk, where for several days it repulsed attacks 
by superior enemy forces. 

On the morning of 25 September the division received orders to 
break contact with the enemy, beginning at 2000 the following 
day, and to reach the Panther position by the morning of 28 Sep- 
tember. Thus two nights and one day were available for a retro- 
grade movement of about thirty-five miles. The following account 
covers only the first part of the withdrawal, from the morning of 
25 September until the morning of 27 September, when an inter- 
mediate position was reached. (Map 6) 

As soon as he received orders for the withdrawal, the division 
commander initiated the essential preparations. Reconnaissance 
detachments formed by division headquarters, the two infantry 
regiments, and the artillery battalion were given the mission of 
assigning sectors of the Panther position to each individual unit 
and of finding suitable terrain for an intermediate position where 
the pursuing Russian forces might be delayed west of Krasny. 
Advance detachments accompanying these elements were made 
responsible for marking the routes of withdrawal and for control- 
ling the movement of the different columns to their destinations. 

RESTRICTED Original from 




(25-27 Stpttmbtr 1943) 



During the night of 25-26 September most of the service ele- 
ments of the division were moved behind the Panther position. 
Along the routes of withdrawal they established fuel and ammu- 
nition dumps to meet the requirements of the combat elements. 
Most of the signal communication equipment was also moved be- 
hind the Panther position; only essential wire lines were left at 
the front, while reserve equipment was placed in the vicinity of 
Krasny. The reconnaissance battalion was moved to the same area. 

To assure a smooth flowing movement, traffic was strictly regu- 
lated and towing vehicles were placed at crucial points. The use 
of alternate routes was explored. A number of footbridges were 
constructed across a brook three miles behind the front. Simul- 
taneously, preparations were made to blow up these footbridges 
and the two road bridges east and northeast of Krasny after the 
last German troops had crossed. The local inhabitants were moved 
to wooded areas away from the indicated routes of withdrawal to 
prevent their interfering with the troop movements. Past experi- 
ence had shown that many civilians would attempt to elude the 
onrushing Soviet Army by joining the German units. Finally, to 
protect the operation against interference from the air, the divi- 
sion requested the assistance of an antiaircraft unit, and one flak 
battalion with five batteries was made available on 26 September. 

The withdrawal began after dusk on 26 September, but did not 

Digitized by 






take place entirely in accordance with the division's schedule. At 
H minus 30 minutes the commander was informed that the enemy 
had struck hard in the adjacent sector on the right. Accordingly, 
the reconnaissance battalion, reinforced by an 88-mm. battery, 
made a night march from Krasny southeastward to a bridge across 
the brook in the neighboring sector. The move was made to pre- 
vent a Russian flank thrust from the south. As an additional pre- 
caution reconnaissance detachments, composed of men from the 
division headquarters company and the division's military police 
detachment, were sent from Krasny to where the division bound- 
ary crossed roads leading south and southeast from there. 

Starting at 2000 the main infantry and artillery components 
rapidly withdrew westward. Near the front only isolated Russian 
reconnaissance detachments were observed. Therefore, the di- 
vision commander ordered his rear guard to withdraw ahead of 
schedule, at 2400. 

The expected flanking thrusts from the south materialized at 
2300, but, thanks to the timely measures taken, the Russians were 
held off at all points. Without interruption the division continued 
its movement and by 1000, 27 September, reached the intermediate 

This example illustrates not only lessons learned by the German 
Army but also several peculiarities of Russian night combat. The 
Russians were hesitant in launching frontal pursuit. In general 
they preferred to envelop or thrust into the flanks. Therefore, a 
Russian penetration usually implied a threat to the adjacent unit, 
rather than to the one originally under attack. Russian night at- 
tacks were generally carried out by infantry and armor without 
artillery support. Toward the end of the war the Russians made 
increasing use of their air force, whose bombing attacks were di- 
rected against vulnerable fixed targets. 

Withdrawing German troops adapted themselves to these pe- 
culiarities by certain countermeasures. Once a night withdrawal 
was under way, it had to be completed without delay so that the 
troops would be ready to offer renewed resistance in the next po- 
sition. The command echelon of a major unit had to move to the 
rear position at an early time so that the unit commander could 
make appropriate dispositions to counter any possible threat to 
his flanks. Strong flak units had to be attached to the withdrawing 
troops to protect them against air attack. 

RESTRICTED Original from 




L General 

Since training is a prerequisite for success in battle, training 
programs must simultaneously utilize lessons from past experi- 
ence and anticipate future developments, particularly in the field 
of technology. No matter how fundamental the changes in tactics 
and techniques, it will always be up to the individual soldier to 
do the actual fighting. For this purpose he must be trained and 
indoctrinated. The longer and more thorough the training, the 
more effective it will be. Training and educational programs must 
be so devised that they stimulate the soldier's initiative. Only on 
that basis will military planners be able to shape a powerful and 
flexible instrument that will be capable of withstanding the vicis- 
situdes of war. 

In night combat he who is conditioned to darkness will be at 
an advantage, and training must therefore strive to restore the 
soldier's native sensitivity, which has been dulled by city life. 
Against a potential opponent who has the innate characteristics 
of a tough, ruthless, and cunning night fighter, proper training 
is indispensable. 

German field commanders with many years of practical experi- 
ence advocate that up to 50 percent of all training be conducted 
at night, starting from the very first day of basic training. In 
their opinion it is unnecessary to devise a specific night training 
program. They advocate that the most important features on the 
weekly training schedule take place at night and that the lessons 
learned in daytime be repeated and driven home during the hours 
of darkness. By shifting part of the regular schedule from day to 
night, one may achieve the dual purpose of toughening the soldier 
and making him a night fighter. 

The better a soldier knows the mechanics of his profession, the 
more self-confident he will be. The morning after a night problem 
should not necessarily be a rest period since trainees must get ac- 
customed to hardship at an early stage. For instance, to simulate 
combat conditions a trainee returning from a night exercise should 
be given a short break, followed by field training until noon. 
Moreover, to toughen the trainee, field sports should be included 
in the schedule. 

RESTRICTED ;- r ig ina | frorn 





II. Individual Training 

Individual training should begin by familiarizing the trainee 
with the peculiarities of the night. His eyes and ears must be con- 
ditioned to a variety of unaccustomed impressions. Since this 
conditioning process is gradual, it may be practical to start with 
lectures and demonstrations. Competitive exercises should be ini- 
tiated as early as possible since they arouse the trainee's interest 
in night combat. The recruit must learn that at best he can per- 
ceive only the outline of an object without any detail. Since he 
can observe better from below than from above, he must get down 
on the ground. Distances are difficult to estimate in the dark and 
the position of a distant light can, therefore, be easily misjudged. 
By lighting a flashlight, a match, or smoking a cigarette the sol- 
dier might betray his presence even to a rather distant foe. 

Sounds are transmitted most clearly at night, and the trainee 
must learn to differentiate between ordinary noises and those that 
should arouse suspicion. By putting his ear to the ground he will 
often be able to hear noises that are otherwise inaudible. To 
familiarize the trainee with nighttime conditions, preliminary 
marksmanship and range firing exercises should be shifted to the 
hours of darkness at an early stage in the training. Cross-country 
night marches may occasionally be combined with practice alerts. 
Since a sudden drop in temperature during the night or unex- 
pected ground fog during the early morning hours may affect the 
trainee's health, he must be taught to take appropriate precautions. 

During the next stage of individual training the recruit should 
learn to orient himself by the stars, by prismatic compass, by 
tracer and various other types of signals, and by terrain features 
briefly observed during daylight. He must know how to move 
silently, both erect and prone, at first across familiar, then across 
unfamiliar terrain, taking every precaution not to attract the 
enemy's attention by the clatter of weapons or equipment. During 
daytime he must prepare heavy weapons positions for fire against 
potential night targets. In addition, his training should include 
practice in patrolling and close combat at night, use of pyrotechnic 
signals, performance of sentry duty, attacks on enemy outposts, 
employment of intrenching tools without attracting attention, 
messenger duty, etc. 

In peacetime, individual training is followed by unit training 
beginning at squad level. In the wartime training of replacements, 
one may discard this systematic program and use a mixed schedule 
if the need for additional manpower is urgent and if experienced, 
outstanding instructors are available. Such a mixed program con- 
sists of alternating individual with unit training by scheduling, 


Original from 




for instance, two days of individual training, followed by one day 
of squad and one day of platoon training, and reverting to one 
day of individual training, etc. The objective in setting up such a 
schedule is to obtain effective teamwork at the earliest possible 
moment. The attached tentative training charts, based on the 
practical experience of a German training instructor for armored 
units, contain suggestions along these lines. (Appendices I-VII) 
The disadvantage inherent in this type of program is that both the 
instructor and the trainee may be overtaxed by such a crowded 
schedule. Careful supervision of the training activities is there- 
fore indicated. 

III. Weapons Training 

A soldier's familiarity with his weapons may be a decisive fac- 
tor in night combat. To achieve complete mastery in the manipu- 
lation of weapons and equipment, the trainee must practice all pos- 
tures — first while in camp, then under simulated combat condi- 
tions, and finally in the dark and blindfolded. The last type of 
individual training can be given only in the field, and its objective 
is to perfect the trainee's skill until he qualifies for unit training. 
Each arm of the service will proceed according to established 

IV. Unit Training 

Squad training should emphasize firing practice at dusk, in the 
dark, by moonlight, and in artificial light. Firing practice should 
frequently be combined with an extended exercise, such as a 
strenuous march or reconnaissance problem, during which the 
unit should switch to extended formation after dusk. Only thus 
will the trainee get accustomed to the idea that he must be able 
to fight even after great physical exertion. Special importance 
should be attached to firing practice as part of defense in twilight 
and moonlight in order to condition the trainee to enemy attacks 
and give him confidence in his unit's ability to defend itself during 
the various stages of darkness. Additional subjects of instruction 
are night patrolling and reconnaissance, combat patrol missions, 
teamwork in firing heavy weapons, execution of technical missions 
normally assigned to engineers, close combat against tanks from 
foxholes, first aid in darkness, protection against frostbite, etc. 

Advanced unit training embraces all types of combat, with em- 
phasis on combined arms operations. Starting at platoon level 
this training phase culminates in large-scale combined arms ma- 
neuvers. The lessons learned by the individual will now find their 






practical application in the field. Passing through the execution 
of different phases of night operations, the training of the unit 
progresses to uninterrupted day and night exercises which empha- 
size various types of combat in darkness. 

The combined arms maneuvers should feature co-operation be- 
tween armored, tactical air, and airborne units. The training for 
graduate officers of advanced staff schools should stress planning 
of combined arms operations and exercise of command by night. 

The ideal night fighter is a self-reliant, fully integrated soldier 
commanded by a cool, resourceful, and thoughtful leader who in- 
spires confidence and determination. Only if training can produce 
such men will an army have a chance of success against an adver- 
sary who not only is unhampered by darkness but even seems to 
thrive on it. 


Original from 

GoOQk Original from 



Entire company 

Note, Specialised training 
for tank and truck driv- 
ers and radio operators 
is not included in this 
unit training schedule. 

Entire company 

Tank gunners 

Entire company 

Tank gunners 

Tank radio operators 

Tank drivers 

Truck drivers 

Entire company . 


Tank gunners 

Tank radio operators 


Tank drivers 

Truck drivers. __ 

Digitized by Google 

Original from 

GoOQk Original from 







First week 
See Appendices I and II. 

Second week 

1. Intensified weapons training ; target practice with varying degrees of visibility ; aiming and 

firing in combat. 

2. Reconnaissance patrol training involving ranger tactics against a simulated enemy ; using 

prominent land marks for orientation ; visual exercises, estimating distances ; cover and 

3. Demolition training, including preparation and placing of charges; use of different types of 

fuzes; connecting wires ; and preparing various types of charges. 

Third week 

1. Close combat course. 

2. Building and camouflaging simple fortifications and setting up barbed wire obstacles. 

3. Laying and clearing open and concealed single mines. 

4. Moving into an assembly area and securing same ; use of hasty obstacles. 

5. Reconnoitering roads, detours, resting and assembly areas ; methods of marking such areas 

and controlling traffic. 

Fourth week 

1. Reconnoitering river-crossing sites and using pneumatic floats to move a combat patrol across 

a river. 

2. Patrolling in forests and across terrain offering poor visibility ; methods of breaching mine 

fields ; reporting. 

3. Road repair work on the battlefield ; crossing swampy terrain, ground pitted with shell 

craters, sandy stretches, and antitank ditches. 

4. Close antitank combat. 

Fifth week 

1. Disengagement, including preparation of demolitions and mine obstacles. 

2. Repelling surprise raids ; close combat training. 

3. Outpost duties, including security patrolling, sentry duty, and relief. 

4. Reconnoitering bridge sites and construction of single-span stringer bridges ; construction of 

approach and exit facilities. 

5. Knots and ties. 

Sixth week 

1. Squad in attack, subsequently switching to the defense, including crossing and building of 

obstacles and light field fortifications. 

2. Practice alerts; operations against enemy airborne troops, including reconnaissance of block- 

ing positions. 

3. Combat in wooded areas ; combat patrols utilizing engineer equipment ; reconnaissance, con- 

struction, and crossing of fords. 

Seventh week 

1. Exercise with vehicles, including loading, motor march, fire fight from and near vehicles. 

2. Guarding a defile and repelling an attack in hand-to-hand fighting, including close antitank 


3. Combat in inhabitated localities, with emphasis on engineer combat patrol tactics, removal 

and construction of obstacles. 

4. Establishment and defense of strong points. 

Eighth week 

1. Attack on barriers, including surprise raid and capture of a bridge, and removal of explosive 


2. Reconnaissance of bridges and testing their load capacity ; reinforcing and widening narrow 

bridges, repairing damaged bridges. 

3. Continuous night-day-night exercise with elements of a tank or antitank gun battalion, in- 

cluding employment of the engineer platoon for reconnaissance and engineer missions. 

RESTRICTED Original from 






Note. Supplement night training schedule for armored infantry troops (App. II) with 
specialized training program outlined in this schedule. 

Firat week 
See Appendix II. 

Second week 

First exercise : Preparation of cord fuzes ; preparing charges for demolitions and for use by 

combat patrols ; knots and ties. 
Second exercise: Using pneumatic floats to move combat patrols across a river without making 
any noise. 

Third week 

First exercise: Types of charges; preparing charges and fuzes. 

Second exercise: Reconnoitering and marking roads; traffic control; testing tonnage capacity 
of a bridge. 

Fourth week 

First exercise : Handling antitank and antipersonnel mines ; laying and clearing open and 
concealed mines; constructing barbed-wire obstacles; repairing damaged wire 
obstacles and closing gaps without delay. 

Second exercise : Detection and removal of mines; breaching barbed- wire obstacles. 

Third exercise: Planting hasty mine obstacles; constructing road blocks without charges or mines. 

Fifth week 

First exercise : Constructing platforms for tree snipers and observers. 

Second exercise : Detecting and removing demolition charges attached to bridges. 

Third exercise: Approach march; crossing difficult terrain (shell craters, swampy terrain, 

sandy stretches, antitank ditches) ; preparing organic vehicles to cross same. 

Retrograde movement ; planting mine barriers and preparing mine records. 

Sixth week 

First exercise : Combat patrol action during which engineer combat equipment is employed ; 

construction of road blocks and barricades ; preparing and placing hidden small 

Second exercise : Hasty mine laying and clearing exercises. 

Third exercise : Reconnoitering crossing and bridge sites ; reconnoitering, constructing, and 
crossing fords ; building, equipping, and operating a 4-ton pneumatic-float 
ferry; construction of footbridges. 

Seventh week 

First exercise: Attaching demolition charges to small bridges and other objects. 
Second exercise: Clearing lanes through mine fields. 
Third exercise : Breaching different types of obstacles. 

Eighth week 

Construction of short emergency bridges; repairing damaged parts of a bridge ; reinforcing 
bridges; building approaches and exits; construction of an 8.5-ton duckboard treadway bridge. 



, n s * 1 n 1 w 1 s "Original from 

Digitized by LiOO) 1 






Note, Supplement night training schedule for close combat by night (App. IV) with 
specialized training program as outlined in this schedule. 

First week 
See Appendix II. 

Second week 

1. Strengthening defensive positions by building field fortifications and constructing barbed-wire 


2. Knots and ties. 

Third week 

1. Handling different types of detonators ; preparing and placing charges, fuzes, and connec- 

ting wires. 

2. Combat patrol action during which engineer equipment is employed. 

3. Preparation and removal of obstacles with and without explosives. 

4. Proper use of pneumatic floats and emergency river crossing equipment. 

Fourth week 

1. Laying and clearing open and concealed mines. 

2. Clearing individual mines and lanes through mine fields. 

3. Engineer reconnaissance of roads and detours, methods of marking same and guiding troops 
' to their assembly areas. 

4. Combat in inhabited localities utilizing engineer equipment ; construction and removal of bar- 

riers ; planting booby traps. 

Fifth week 

1. Recon noiteri ng river crossing sites; ferrying motorcycles and heavy weapons on pneumatic 

floats ; building and operating 4-ton pneumatic float ferries; construction of landing stages. 

2. Road repair work ; crossing of swampy and sandy stretches, terrain pitted with shell craters, 

and antitank ditches. 

3. Constructing platforms for tree snipers and observers. 

4. Forest fighting, including preparation and removal of abatis ; planting hidden small charges. 

Sixth week 

1. Construction and camouflage of defensive positions and weapons emplacements for an ar- 

mored reconnaissance battalion. 

2. Attack on and defense of blocking positions. 

3. Testing load capacity of bridges. 

4. Reconnoitering bridge sites ; construction of short bridges ; construction of approach and 

exit facilities ,* marking roads and controlling traffic near bridge sites. 

Seventh week 

1. Demolition of small structures with and without explosive charges. 

2. Reinforcing and widening narrow bridges; repairing damaged bridges. 

3. Reconnoitering, building, and crossing fords. 

4. Construction of footbridges and hasty bridges under combat conditions. 

Eighth week 

Participation in a 7-day combat exercise of a combined armored reconnaissance company with 
practical application of training subject matter. 

"& U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1953 256390/l031B 


n- ■■■ frvnnlr* Original from 


GoOQk Original from